THE long-suffering people of South Sudan never seem to catch a break.
The time between harvests when food is scarce is known as the “lean season”. As that period gets underway in South Sudan, the term does little justice to the extent of the country’s food crisis.
According to UN data, some 5.5 million people across the country faced “severe food insecurity” in May. Of these, 1.46 million were on the brink of famine, which means they live in an area where – even if humanitarian aid is delivered – one in five households have “an extreme lack of food and other basic needs where starvation death and destitution are evident”.
Famine has already been declared in parts of Unity State. Persistent armed conflict is the chief driver of the food crisis: In May alone, fighting – including around the Central Equatoria town of Yei and in Upper Nile State – prompted some 60,000 people to flee the country.
In all, some 1.9 million South Sudanese are living as refugees in neighbouring countries, while another two million are internally displaced. Aid workers are not immune to the violence: of 89 incidents affecting humanitarian access in May, a third involved violence towards humanitarian personnel or assets.
In Unity State, all the community health workers at a facility in Nimni were, reportedly, forcibly recruited into the armed forces. IRIN is shortly to publish a major multimedia package on the humanitarian situation in the Equatoria region.